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Jan 19

Secret Keys – or: The Legend of the 104th Key

Take a look at your keyboard. You’ll find a key labeled with Scroll-Lock. Please tap it, now. Do you notice any changes to your system? Oh, sure – there is a somewhat illuminating your dark room. But, should this really be its raison d’être?  And why hasn’t a Macintosh this key?

Firstly, this key isn’t without functionality for the most of us. In a time without a mouse or scrollbars, your only choice to scroll was moving your cursor downwards line-by-line. When activating the Scroll-Lock key, the cursor remains at his position and you scroll through a page more easily. Technically, the keyboard saves the key’s state and programs can handle their behavior accordingly to this state. In fact, there aren’t much applications out there referring to this key. Why should they, when we now have scroll wheels in a mouse? But some applications still don’t want to relinquish. Microsoft Excel, as the most popular example, supports the intended behavior. It also pause the output screen on a Linux console for scrolling the entire content. TeamViewer uses this key to send control commands directly to a remote machine. And even though no application would refer to the Scroll-Lock key, by all means some people want to keep this key for using as a hotkey.

In my selfish opinion I want to claim, that no one needs this key. Or did you hear of a mac user, requiring exactly this key? Mostly, the use of a scroll wheel fulfills your needs, even horizontally. TeamViewer has an option for sending commands directly and Linux console output can be also scrolled with Pause and your mouse wheel. It has no effect in OpenOffice documents. And those Excel-Users, do they really use it? Do you use it?

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